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Ringling Blue Unit Trainmaster, Keith Anderson

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Train

2010 Blue Unit Circus Train Report and Photos from Commerce and Anaheim, CA, by Carl Morrison

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Chapter 4:  Blue Unit Trainmaster, Keith Anderson's Interview

From contributor, Author: rbx551985, I learned that Trainmaster Keith Anderson and his dog, "Baby," are still in charge of the Blue Unit.  

Don't let Keith's looks deceive you.  He looks like a guy you wouldn't want to mess with, but he is a gracious host when it comes to his work as Trainmaster  for the Blue Unit of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Train.  Even though he had just arrived and unloaded the 61-car train in Los Angeles late the night before.  He took us rail newbies through his Generator Car and Shop Car explaining every detail and answering all our questions with a smile.  We joked about his boyhood state, Missouri, and mine, Indiana, and got along like a couple of high school buddies.  His has a job that few people could perform.  

Basically he is the Landlord for 320 people (100 of them performers) from 14 different countries who speak 10 different languages, plus a Trainmaster for a passenger-frieght train over a mile long.  He has to get power (2 or 3 locomotives depending on the terrain to be covered) whenever they jump to a new location.  He has to keep the "Town Without a ZIP Code" running safely both  while traveling as well as when they are stable.  He lives on the train, so he is oncall 24/7.

Security is handled with 3 eight-hour shifts, around the clock.  They have to guard against tagging as well as help the 320 residents who might lose their key to their accommodations and have to be let in late at night, or hear about stopped up sinks, or air conditioning or cable TV that is not working in the residential cars.

Keith has 13 crewmembers who help him accomplish his varied tasks.  His first activity upon arrival at a new city, starting at 6 a.m., is a preventive maintenance safety inspection of the train.  Often they will replace brake shoes and tend to repairs in the private facilities.

Upon leaving a town, they do an air brake tests then load the wagons and animals, which have been walked to the animal cars from the arena immediately after the last show.  It takes 8 to 10 hours to load the flat cars with the wagons.

Animals are at the head of the train (see consist below) because it is less bumpy there.  As to animal care, each animal is tended to by groomsmen who are responsible for watering and feeding them.

As to the families traveling on the train, they are taught by qualified teachers in each town, or on the train.  There is a nursery for smaller children.  The Ringmaster lives on the train with his wife and two children and in his section of this report, he raves about seeing historic places in the US rather than their just reading about them.

(Click any photo for a double-sized copy:  Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

The train carries two extra sets of wheels underneath one car. This set has been removed and will be sent back to Florida for surfacing. It has a worn flange which showed up in their regular preventive maintenance equipment checks.

The damaged flange.  Keith said it was not bad yet, but if it wore more, while going through a switch it could switch or jump the track causing a derailment.

Keith talks with reporter Vanessa Peg, while the cameraman filmed their conversation. While they talked, I thought, with his new hat, Keith looked like a rodeo rider.  He is from Missouri, so who knows!

Vanessa Peng, reporter, and Jeff Davis, cameraman, and I met "Baby." Keith's 1/2 lab, 1/2 Greyhound 2.5 yr. 'puppy.'

Keith, knowing of my readers' interest in the train as much as in the circus, made sure I had a current copy of the Blue Unit Consist (Chapter 2). 

I wore a red Ringling hat that he had given me 2 years ago, and he said, "I've got some blue hats I'll give you this time."


You can find hats and many more items in their Online Store:

I interviewed Keith two years ago when the Blue Unit was in Southern California.  To read my 2008 interview of Trainmaster Keith Anderson, with photos, go to

Next Page:  Chapter 5:  Pie Car Press Conference with Photos of Chef Michael Vaughn and Performers.

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